The International Criminal Court in The Hague is examining evidence to decide whether an investigation can be started into crimes against migrants in Libya, which could potentially include the so-called Libyan Coastguard. This would reflect the numerous attacks on civil rescue organisations as well as refugees and migrants highlighted by Sea-Watch. In several cases, the so-called Libyan Coastguard has put rescuers, migrants and refugees in mortal danger in order to bring the latter back to Libya at gunpoint – a clear violation of the internationally-accepted principle of non-refoulement.
The reason for the initiative of Sea-Watch, which could now potentially have legal consequences, stems from an incident on 10th May in which a patrol boat of the Libyan Coastguard dangerously cut across the bow of the Sea-Watch 2 in order to subsequently reach a wooden boat with c. 500 people on board. The captain of the patrol boat forced the refugees and migrants to stop their boat at gunpoint. Subsequently, they were brought back to Tripoli and from there to the infamous ‘Detention Centres’.“All incidents took place outside Libyan territorial waters and this represents a clear violation of the international ban on refoulement.
It would be an important step if the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague would investigate the crimes of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard closely.
The evidence presented by Sea-Watch is precise and concrete. Now it is up to the International Criminal Court to take the necessary action.”, says Sea-Watch lawyer Jens Janssen. “Sea Watch contacted and encouraged the International Criminal Court to investigate the incidents. The ICC examines if an investigation will be opened.”
“Unfortunately, the grossly negligent and often criminal actions of the so-called Libyan Coastguard are not an isolated incident, and they can sometimes end in death: in October we witnessed how dozens of people drowned before the eyes of our crew after the Libyan Coastguard damaged an overloaded rubber boat. The Libyans had also tried in this instance to bring the boat from international waters back to Libya: 104 other people only survived because Sea-Watch was on hand and pulled them out of the water,” says Axel Grafmanns, CEO of Sea-Watch. “Currently, we are observing a sharp increase in such encroachments by the Libyan Coastguard. Less than two weeks after the incident of 10th May, the crews of Jugend Rettet und SOS Mediterranée were caught in the crossfire when the crew of a patrol boat fired shots from an automatic weapon in the direction of several refugee boats during another illegal refoulement,” says Grafmanns. “In this case the role of the rescue coordination centre in Rome must be urgently clarified, which at least for the incident of 10th May had given over coordination of the operation to the Libyans, meaning that the refoulement may even have taken place with European consent.”
Sea-Watch demands that the training of the Libyan Coastguard be contingent on strict conditions. “It cannot be accepted that fundamental rights are here being continuously violated – and with European support in the form of both know-how and material help,” says Axel Grafmanns. “Europe must decide between human rights and resistance to migration. Any support for the so-called Libyan Coastguard should be stopped until it can be guaranteed that the units in question orient their behaviour in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to leave their country. Refoulement to Libya is not only a humanitarian disaster but also simply illegal, and must not be tolerated by the EU, let alone funded by it. We are therefore pleased that the International Criminal Court is taking the matter in hand.”
You’ll find more information on the incidents with the Libyan Coast Guards here: https://sea-watch.org/en/petition-end-eu-financed-violence-against-refugees-and-migrants-by-the-libyan-coastguard/